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Drones, ATVs hamper B.C.’s wildfire fighting efforts

Anyone caught operating a drone in the vicinity of a wildfire could face fines or jail time
A firefighter directs water on a grass fire burning on an acreage behind a residential property in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June 5, 2023. Firefighters battling British Columbia’s hundreds of wildfires have had more obstacles to deal with beyond the record-sized blazes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Firefighters battling hundreds of blazes in British Columbia say they’ve been facing more than the usual obstacles, blaming members of the public for interfering with operations.

The BC Wildfire Service says it’s had to deal with several people riding all-terrain vehicles around active work sites and in one case a drone in the air forced firefighters to halt operations.

The service says in a statement there have been several reports of people getting in the way of heavy equipment operators and firefighters fighting multiple fires in the Burns Lake area in northwestern B.C.

It says public interference has a direct effect on the effectiveness of fire suppression and poses safety risks to both the public and firefighters.

Last weekend, aerial firefighting operations in the province’s northwest were temporarily suspended due to a drone being flown near a wildfire.

The service says anyone caught operating a drone in the vicinity of a wildfire could face fines or jail time.

The province’s wildfire season has set a new record for the total area burned in a year, with almost 14,000 square kilometres scorched and hundreds of fires burning across the province.

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